Saturday, August 25, 2007


Lots and lots of rain over the last week - severe thunderstorms with high winds, tornadic activity, sirens going off in the night. It's not been fun but we've certainly had a better time of it here in Valpo than many other towns in the Midwest. It looks like the rain has finally stopped this morning and we're not supposed to get anymore for a few days. Good news.

Speaking of good news, I got a promotion at work. I am now going to be the swimming lesson supervisor, which means I will be working more hours (and at more pay). It also means that I am going to have to bring my lifeguarding skills into the 21st century (I was a lifeguard in the late 80s) for those days when I'm on call or when problems crop up. I can handle that. Grant is going to end up being at the Y for a couple hours many nights, since Jill is on a schedule where she won't get home until 6:00 or so most of the year. But he's 10 now and it's not as big of a deal. I'm looking forward to the challenges and while it feels a bit odd to be embarking on something that is career-like, it also feels good.

I've been off of work this week, the first of three where there are no swimming lessons going on (though with the new position, I'll actually be in having meetings and learning duties and the like). Jill went back to school on Aug. 15 and Grant went on Wednesday, so I've been at home alone for a couple days. I've been doing the usual errands and household chores but I've also had more time for pop culture and my own creative work...

Last night I finished Spook Country, the latest novel from William Gibson. I am a big fan of Gibson's work and I really liked his last novel, Pattern Recognition, which was his first set in the present day. The new novel follows that same path and even features a character from that previous novel, Hubertus Bigend. He is funding a new magazine called "Node" (that no one in the industry has heard of) for which Hollis Henry is writing. Hollis was the singer in a band called The Curfew that once enjoyed success but is no more. She is sent down a path that brings her in contact with strange people doing strange things. The novel has two other viewpoints and eventually all the characters are brought together in Vancouver. I didn't care too much for one of the characters but another of Chinese-Cuban descent and part of a shadowy family is very interesting. In the end, I didn't like this book as much as some of Gibson's other work but it is still a good read and worth the time.

I got two DVDs through Netflix this week. The first was Hellboy. Readers of this blog know how much I enjoy the comic book series and I was prepared to enjoy the movie as well. However, I abandoned it just under an hour into it. Why? I could not stand the portrayal of Abe Sapien, who in the comic books is cool and mysterious and was played onscreen as a freaky fussbudget by David Hyde Pierce. No thank you.

Ironically, David Hyde Pierce plays an odd associate professor of astrophsyics in the other movie I watched this week, Wet Hot American Summer. It's from the gang behind Stella, one of my recent favorite oddball shows on Comedy Central, and it's a sendup of movies about summer camp and is set in 1981. It doesn't make a lot of sense at all and not every joke works but if you like that type of humor, there'a a lot to enjoy. And I did enjoy it.

I was in a unique position when I played the open mic at Front Porch on Thursday...I had three new songs since the last time I'd performed (which was two weeks ago tonight). Last weekend I wrote a new song very quickly about some of the stuff that's been happening with a very tense musical bed and surreal and yearning lyrics. It's called "All These Questions." However, I chose to set that aside the other night and I'm not sure I'll ever perform it as it feels like too much of me. We'll see.

Anyway, I had no such problems with the other two new songs, both of which I finished writing the last lyrics for that afternoon. Both were songs that have been gestating for a while. "Toll Booth Operator" had music for a while and then part of a first verse and then part of a third verse and it eventually came together. I didn't play it to the best of my ability at the Porch but I did it well enough.

The other song is a radically different version of a song I wrote early this year, "The Only Thing." I only played it a few times before abandoning it. In recent months I experimented with speeding up the music and changing it around just slightly; I really liked how it sounded but didn't have any lyrics that I liked. Last week I had a small lyrical idea that I jotted down and liked - "Sugar on the spoon/Honey in the jar/You're trying to make yourself sweeter than what you really are." A couple days ago I realized it would fit the music and the rest of the words came fairly quickly. It's now called "Play Pretend" and it got a very nice response the other night, with some friends and fellow songwriters giving me very specific compliments on it. I think it's easily one of the best songs I've written, which is a nice feeling. I'm now over 20 songs written, though 5 or 6 are ones that I don't play. Still, that's pretty good for 16 months of being a musician.

I also got to sit in on one of Graham's songs (he was the host), "Bag of Bones." I've been telling him for months that I'd love to try and play some piano with it and we gave it a try the other night. We did a quick test run of about two minutes and figured it was good enough. When the time came, I sat at the piano and just let it flow. Graham told me afterwards that he liked what I was doing and another friend said he though it worked very well with the song. Collaborating with Graham is fun and I'm feeling so much more comfortable with my musical ability these days.

And that's the last week or so.

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